The Wausau West Warriors had a chance to secure the outright championship of the Wisconsin Valley Conference when they hosted Wisconsin Rapids at Marathon Park on Tuesday night. For the Red Raiders, it was a chance to redeem themselves after falling behind early and losing to West 5-3 in their first meeting. The teams alternated goals until Matt Edwards broke the pattern with a short-handed goal late in the third period to lead Rapids to a 3-2 win, and keep their hopes alive for a share of the Valley title.
The Warriors came out flying in the first period, attacking Rapids goalie Tyler Gilbert from all directions. “We weathered the storm early,” said Raiders coach Pat McDonald. “ They came out very hard in the first period and hit two or three pipes, but we got through it.”
Justin Zahn got the Warriors on the board with 1:31 left in the first . He got a good feed from the corner and fired off a quick shot that squeaked past Gilbert. Gilbert and West goalie Sam Wiegert were very busy in the first period, not just with the number of shots, but with the quality of the scoring chances. Wiegert stopped 13 shots in the frame, while Gilbert recorded 10 saves.
It was a hard-fought but clean game. Yet in the second period the officials decided that to earn their pay, they had to call some penalties. Back-to-back slashing calls on West just 40 seconds apart gave the Raiders a 5 on 3 advantage. The Warriors managed to kill the 5 on 3 part, but Dan Overfelt cashed in on the one-man advantage to tie the game for Rapids. Matt Edwards blasted a slapshot from the left face off dot, and Overfelt deflected it over Wiegert. “Our power play generated a ton of opportunities,” said McDonald. “That goal gave them a lot of confidence.”
To make up for that transgression, Rapids was flagged for tripping later in the period. On the ensuing power play, John Metzinger put a shot on goal from the blue line. Gilbert stopped it and Drew Pearson pounced on the rebound. Gilbert stopped that shot also, but the puck came right back to Pearson, and this time he slid it home to put the Warriors back on top with four minutes left in the second period.
Early in the third period the Red Raiders tied it up again. Matt Edwards fired a shot toward the front of the West net from the outside hash marks on the right side. Caleb Schroer was knifing in toward the net from the left and arrived at the same time as the puck, redirecting it past Wiegert.
At 10:42 with West on the power play, Schroer picked off a pass attempt by a Warrior defenseman and passed it ahead to Edwards, who walked in on Wiegert and fired a shot over his shoulder to put Rapids up for the first time in the game. Gilbert and the Raiders were able to hold on to complete the win for Wisconsin Rapids.
“Tyler Gilbert was outstanding,” said McDonald after the game. “He has really matured over the second half of the season. This group hasn’t had a lot of success against Wausau growing up in the youth ranks, so they really targeted this game as one they wanted to make a statement.”